Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Militiamen, ranchers in showdown for soul of Burns

The strangers carrying the whisper of danger arrived in the vast territory of the Harney Basin just before the holidays. Ammon Bundy once helped his father repulse the government in an armed showdown on a Nevada desert. He was Tasered for his effort. Ryan Payne, an electrician from Montana, joined that same standoff and boasted of organizing civilians into sniper squads that drew a bead on federal agents. And not long ago, Jon Ritzheimer worried the FBI with his threatening rants against Muslims in Arizona and elsewhere. Now, the men say, they are in Burns to help Dwight and Steven Hammond. The Hammonds are father and son ranchers, due to report to federal prison on Monday. They were convicted in 2012 of arson for lighting public land on fire adjacent to their ranch land south of Burns. They have been imprisoned once and must return for an additional term after federal appellate judges said they had been illegally sentenced the first time...The Hammonds don't want to be part of the outsiders' cause, and neither do many in Harney County. But that hasn't stopped the strangers from summoning help from militia groups across the country. They are vague about their intention and their plans, unsettling the community and putting law enforcement on edge. The militia plan a rally and a parade on Saturday, circling the county courthouse that houses the sheriff's office...The Hammonds initially accepted the militia's offer of help to avoid 
prison, Bundy said. But the Hammonds changed their minds after being warned by federal prosecutors to stop communicating with the militia, Bundy wrote in a blog post. The Hammonds declined interview requests and didn't respond to written questions about their dealings with the militiamen. A Boise lawyer representing the Hammonds said in a letter to the sheriff that Bundy didn't speak for the ranchers and that they intended to surrender as required. Bundy and Payne and their associates are persisting, though. They explain in deliberate, calm tones their reasoning. The federal government claims title to most of the land in Harney County, the ninth largest county in the United States. Bundy and Payne maintain that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution limits what the federal government can own, and that the government's claim to much of Harney County violates that limit. The federal government consequently has no authority to prosecute the Hammonds. Bundy and Payne, who said he has moved to Harney County, have pressed the matter on several fronts. They have insisted that Ward, the sheriff, protect the Hammonds. They have written other elected officials in the county and in Oregon asserting the same demand. Some residents have shown interest in the group's cause. Locals voted seven of their own onto a new Harney County Committee of Safety, including ranchers, a retired fire chief, and a tax preparer...more

A lengthy article, and as I post this there are over 3000 comments at the site linked to above.

1 comment:

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